Finally‚ MaKhumalo’s dormant vegetable packhouse to open

First Lady, Sizakele maKhumalo-Zuma irrigating vegetables in a vegetable plantation she contributed in its establishment at Zuma's homestead in Nkandla Picture: THULI DLAMINI. 24/05/2012. © Sowetan

A vegetable packhouse that cost R2.5-million for a women’s co-operative run by President Jacob Zuma’s wife Sizakele MaKhumalo Zuma‚ which stood dormant for three years‚ may finally be operational by the end of the year.

The packhouse‚ on the doorstep of Zuma’s private Nkandla residence‚ was built by the KwaZulu-Natal department of co-operative governance and traditional Affairs for the Qedisimo Sendlala Co-operative.

It was built to help women from the poverty-stricken president’s KwaNxamalala village to produce their own food and sell it to the market.

But squabbling between the department and the Nkandla municipality over who was responsible for the packhouse rendered it a white elephant after its completion.

Now the municipality‚ which previously said it was responsible only for the building‚ has changed its tune and admitted that it is the implementing agent for the project.

The municipality originally claimed the packhouse was the responsibility of the provincial department of agriculture‚ the main custodian of the project. But the department of co-operative governance blamed the municipality for the delays in the project.

Qedisimo Sendlala (which means putting an end to hunger) was started by MaKhumalo in 2010 to help women at KwaNxamalala village to make use of land at their disposal to produce food for their families.

“When I realised that many people in the area were poor and did not have money to buy simple things such as vegetables‚ I decided to do something‚” said MaKhumalo at the time.

“When I realised that many people in the area were poor and did not have money to buy simple things such as vegetables‚ I decided to do something‚” said MaKhumalo at the time.

“I started ploughing and planting cabbages‚ carrots‚ spinach and other vegetables. I then called other women to join in‚” she said of the co-op‚ which consists of 15 women from President Zuma’s home village.

MaKhumalo and the women were understandably excited when the packhouse was built in 2014 because their vegetables were rotting before they could sell them.

Nkandla municipality spokesman Mgcobeni Khanyile confirmed on Monday there was an agreement said the municipality was the implementing agent. “We hope by the end of the municipal financial year the packhouse will be operational‚” he said.

He said the delay had been due to a “technical problem we experienced which will be corrected this financial year.”

He did not elaborate on the nature of the “technical problem”.

By Bongani Mthethwa

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